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Friday, December 10, 2004

MicroDecisions, Inc. Sets a Florida Precedent
(fna "I hate to say I told you so, Mr. Wood")

The entire Florida GIS community, well at least the private sector, should tip their hats off to Dr. Peter Liggatt, MicroDecisions President, and Attorney Jonathan D. Kaney, Jr. Not to mention a host of others whom supported the GIS private sector in the case of MicroDecisions, Inc. vs. Abe Skinner, Collier County Property Appraiser.

Second District Court of Appeals - Case No. 2D03-3346

While Abe Skinner was busy “misconstruing the interplay between the federal copyright act and Florida’s public records laws” many private GIS companies were left out in the cold. Collier County required private GIS companies to sign a commercial license agreement and pay a rather large royalty fee in order to obtain a copy of the property appraiser’s copyrighted public records (GIS parcel shapefiles). The Florida public records law requires State and local agencies to make their records available to the public for the cost of reproduction.

The Florida Second District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of MicroDecisions on December 1, 2004. What happens next remains to be seen; theoretically Collier County should now make their parcel shapefiles available to anyone, public individual or private company, at the cost of reproduction.

In hindsight, it looks like Palm Beach County made the right decision by deciding to post their shapefiles to an FTP site once they removed a similar commercial GIS policy and royalty fee schedule that had previously been in place. (See November 18, 2003 post below). My gut feeling is that Broward County is on the horizon, as they still have their $20,000 countywide royalty fee in place. Will Broward County change their GIS policy or will they stick a $200,000 legal bill to their taxpayers as Collier County has done?
Stay tuned………….